Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How I Spent the Last Few Days

Knitting slippers for Matt and me.

Boring but necessary.


This magical process never ceases to amaze me.


Definitely worth the evening it took to determine the size and colour combination for my first ever colourwork sock, Naniboujou, just one of the three pairs I have planned for next month’s SKA sockdown.

Is it November yet?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Actual Knitting Content

One advantage of having many projects on the go at any given time is that my FO’s tend to come in spurts. Besides filling me with a sense of accomplishment, this gives me something to talk about and lots of pictures for you to look at.
Of course, socks continue to feature prominently in my knitting life. Here are a few of the latest:

Woodelves in Fleece Artist Trail Socks in the Boreal colourway for SKA’s October challenge. I love how these turned out.

My latest pair of plain socks in Hazel Knits’ “Hometeam Baseball” colourway.

I call these my Hometeam Baseball Hockey Socks because they not only feature the team colours of the Seattle Mariners, who I cheer for when I am not pulling for the Toronto Blue Jays, but also those of the Vancouver Canucks, my hometown hockey team. I like how the variegated yarn knit up and the socks are simple but cozy.

Balance Socks in Handmaiden Casbah in “Blackberry”.

I love everything about these socks. Usually by the time I finish the second sock I am ready to be done but I enjoyed this knit so much I was sorry to see it end. I loved working with the yarn, which features shades of blackberries in every stage of ripeness. Good enough to eat!

Once I decided to make the Temperance Stockings I couldn’t wait to cast on. I knit almost nothing else for three days and Voila! I had a knee sock.

This project has really taken me out of my comfort zone, Not only am I knitting a pair of knee socks for myself (and striped ones at that!), I’m not even squirming (too much, anyway) over the inevitable pooling that results from the calf and gusset decreases. As the mornings and evenings get cooler I am looking forward to pulling these on with my pajamas.

With only one pair of SKA socks to knit this month I was free to work on other projects. I finished the back and one front of the Twigs & Leaves cardigan but they’re all curled up and therefore not photo-worthy yet.

On Friday I cast off not one, but two shawls that I began this summer. The knitted-on edging of the Creideamh shawl took several days to complete, thanks to the countless stitches and my ineptitude.

The crocheted edging on the Secret Garden shawl went much more easily and took only a few hours.

This shawl had been marinating since the end of August while I dithered over whether I had enough yarn to knit one more row before casting off. I’d already had to eliminate half a pattern repeat because of insufficient yarn and I wanted to get all the mileage I could out of what I had left. In the end I decided not to risk it --the idea of picking back 768 stitches did not appeal to me. Predictably, it turned out I would have had enough for one more row but better safe than sorry.

I’m hoping to block both shawls soon. Meanwhile, I have a few other projects on the go but I’ll save them for another day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gifts From the Earth

Our apple tree fell over this weekend. Its demise was not totally unexpected as it has been leaning more and more each year. It wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when”. Cameron and Matt spent a couple of hours yesterday chopping it up and removing the stump and, of course, picking apples.

The tree went out with a bang, producing one of its best crops ever. We’ve never sprayed or treated the tree in any way and as a consequence we very seldom have many worm-free apples for snacking. This year, however, we have plenty, in addition to the usual numerous blemished and wormy apples we use for baking.

I spent a good part of today washing and sorting apples, then peeling, coring, and slicing those designated to the baking pile. In the past I’ve usually frozen the apples in unbaked pies and crisps but this year I decided to make pie filling for freezing instead. Unfortunately, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Even though I cut way back on the water, as suggested by a lot of people who’d tried the recipe (gotta love the internet), the end result was way too runny and I had to use a slotted spoon to transfer the filling to containers. I am hoping it will gel a little more once it is baked and cooled.

Of course not all the pie filling was destined for the freezer—I had to try it out, didn’t I?

I baked some of it into an apple streudel and I must say it turned out very well, considering it was the first one I’d ever made.

Served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it made the perfect autumn afternoon snack.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giving Thanks

Yesterday people across Canada celebrated Thanksgiving. Not a year has gone by that I haven’t had plenty to be grateful for: loving family and friends, a roof over my head, plenty to eat. This year we had Thanksgiving dinner with Jessica’s boyfriend’s family. We’ve come to love Neil and his daughter, Morgan, over the past nine months and we enjoyed becoming better acquainted with his parents and siblings.

Having an extra day off this weekend also gave us the opportunity to drive up to the cabin and check out the wildfire damage for ourselves. It’s one thing to see photos but quite another to see it in person. We were reassured to find the area surrounding the lake and our property relatively unchanged, aside from some burnt patches and retardant-stained trees.

But it was sobering to climb the hill behind our place and quickly come upon this scene:

Fire protection crews turned this old logging road into a fire guard and thankfully it did its job.

Even though this spot is less than 300 paces from the nearest cabin (I counted) it is hidden from view by dense forest growth. It was not until we actually emerged from the trees that the clearing came into sight, driving home the realization of just how close we came to losing our beloved vacation spot.

It could have been much worse. Under different circumstances our hillside could have looked like this.

As we drove further north we saw even greater devastation.

In some areas both sides of the road were completely burnt out.

We could only imagine the inferno that must have raged there.

Driving through the fire zone also gave us a greater appreciation for just how far the fire had spread. Our route took us a distance of about 30 km/20 miles but that doesn’t take into consideration the areas we could not reach; the entire zone covers an area of almost 21,000 hectares. While it is still active, the fire is now considered 100% contained and will continue to be monitored until it burns itself out. This shouldn’t be long now, considering that overnight temperatures in the region have recently dipped to about -15° C (5° F) and snow is expected over the next few days. Brr…

Our own weather has taken a turn for the worse; after a stretch of warm, sunny days it is blustery and cool this morning, with rain expected all week. No complaints here--sounds like perfect conditions for knitting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

We all know that a great deal can be accomplished by simply taking things one step at a time but it’s easy to forget. Yesterday it felt like my mystery socks would take forever to complete but lo and behold, by the end of the evening they were done.

There are some elements of these socks I'm not crazy about, like the Dutch heel and the new-to-me toe (in which the stitches are divided into thirds and decreased along those lines), but I feel honored that Nancy Bush took the time to design a sock just for SKA and I enjoyed knitting it along with everyone else. I really liked doing the vickel braid and look forward to including it on a future project.

So, with that out of the way my thoughts turned towards October’s challenge. I only intend to make one pair this month and couldn’t decide between a man’s sock or a Jeannie Cartmel design. However, I soon realized that the idea of knitting for a size 10 foot right now didn’t really appeal to me so in the end the choice was easy. But which one? Jeannie has some really fabulous, intricate patterns that I’ve been eyeing for a long time. The one in her ravatar, “Summer Sliding”, is particularly stunning. Maybe it was the late hour or maybe it was the sense that I’ve already fallen behind but I just couldn’t face the idea of twisted stitches and detailed charts so I settled for something simpler, “Woodelves”. I quickly found just the right yarn in my stash, some Fleece Artist Trail Socks in appropriate shades of green, brown, grey, and tan.

What could be more perfect for woodelves? Just to challenge myself I tried the Turkish cast on for the first time.

Monday morning’s mail brought the latest installment in the Embrace the Lace club. This kit’s theme is “Temperance” and the yarn and pattern are the work of my good friend, Lori Law, of Oceanwind Knits.

The yarn is dyed in soft shades of blue, green, yellow, and pink and is to be knit into a pair of knee-high stockings. At first I dismissed the idea of making these for myself because I don’t wear knee socks but I really liked the yarn and was reluctant to give it to someone else. I considered keeping the yarn and making something else out of it but in my opinion that goes against the spirit of the club. To me, the whole point of joining a club like this is to go out of your comfort zone and be open to yarns, colours, and designs you might not have chosen for yourself. So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to keep the yarn and knit the pattern for myself after all—I think they’ll make very cozy house socks now that the weather is turning cooler.

One last thing…
I’ve come to the realization that there is no way that I am going to finish the Great American Aran Afghan in time for Christmas. I haven’t looked at it in months and the thought of working on it steadily between now and December makes my stomach churn. It just wouldn’t be right to knit those kinds of vibes into it. Instead, I am setting myself a new, perfectly attainable goal to have it finished by next July in time for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Twelve squares in nine months—how hard can it be, right? Shh, don’t answer that…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lagging Behind

After being away for over two weeks it feels good but strange to be home. Traveling across ten time zones in less than 24 hours really does something to your body clock and it is taking me a while to get readjusted. I’m having a hard time staying awake until bedtime and an even harder time sleeping past 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. I’m not used to being up before the sun! When we left we were still enjoying summer weather but the season definitely turned in our absence. It’s time to put the sandals away and pull out the handknit socks. The house seems strangely empty with Jessica gone and only Matthew still at home.

Our busy itinerary didn’t allow much time for knitting but I did manage to finish Clue 3 of the Nancy Bush mystery socks on one of our days at sea.

I couldn’t wait to tackle the final clue once we got home but surprisingly it was two days before I even felt like knitting and even then I could only handle some basic stockingette. It wasn’t until yesterday that I was ready for something that demanded more concentration and I worked a few more pattern repeats on the mystery socks. I’m hoping to finish those soon so I can turn my attention to this month’s SKA challenge. Here it is, almost the end of the first week of October and I haven’t even decided which pattern I’m doing! Not like me at all. Oh well, I know I will feel more like myself in a few days so I just have to cut myself some slack until then. Any discomfort I feel now is a small price to pay for the experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks.

Since 1993 the company Cameron works for has been offering an incentive program to its customers, in which they can apply a portion of their purchases towards the cost of a bi-annual cruise. Some company employees are invited on the trip and in addition to engaging in some general schmoozing with the approximately 1000 customers, host a table for dinner each evening. Thanks to Cameron’s position as a regional manager, we are automatically included among the chosen few and have been lucky enough to go on six cruises, including this year’s trip to the Eastern Mediterranean. The company’s owner and president does his best to make each trip unique and special and has arranged some truly memorable experiences. In the past we’ve been paraded down Canal St. in New Orleans before embarking on a dinner cruise on a Mississippi riverboat, watched an exclusive performance of the Broadway show, “Movin’ Out”, and enjoyed private concerts by Credence Clearwater Revisited, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman of The Guess Who, and Trooper.

This year’s cruise began in Istanbul and included various stops in Turkey, Egypt, and Greece before ending in Athens, where Cameron and I spent three days’ holiday on our own. Over the course of fifteen days we visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

and looked out over the waters of the Bosphorus,

toured the ruins of Ephesus, once the third largest city in the ancient world, next to Alexandria and Rome,

took in breathtaking views on the Greek islands of Mykonos,


and Crete,

gazed at the Great Pyramids of Giza,

watched night fall on the Sphinx,

stood on the original starting block in the Stadium at Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics,

explored the hilltop fortress at Nafplion, the first modern capital of Greece,

and were awed by the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens.

We ate delicious Greek food,

rode a camel (well, Cameron did—I took pictures),

wore goofy Egyptian headdresses

and rocked out with Tom Cochrane against the backdrop of the pyramids and Sphinx.

Truly the trip of a lifetime. Is it any wonder I’m having trouble readjusting to real life?